Senate Republicans call for detailed budget to be released

With just four members on the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee, Republicans know they do not have much say in the proceedings.

But that’s not stopping them from pointing out what they view as shortcomings that are hurting the state.

On Tuesday, Senate Republican Budget Officer Steve Oroho (R-Sparta), Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Old Bridge), Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel) and Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cape May Court House) said Gov. Phil Murphy and the Democratic-controlled Senate have not done enough when it comes to the governor’s proposed budget.

They say a lack of transparency from the Murphy administration and a superficial budget hearing process in the Senate will provide neither legislators nor the public the opportunity to vet the governor’s revised 2021 state budget proposal.

“We were willing to give Gov. Murphy the benefit of the doubt when he said that extending the state’s fiscal year was necessary to respond to the financial challenges of COVID-19,” they said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately, it does not look like he has made good use of this extra time.

“Despite the extra three months the governor was given, no detailed budget has been produced or made available for the public or legislators to review. That’s leading to a rushed and superficial budget hearing process that will have no actual budget to examine or provide any opportunity for direct public input or testimony.”

The Republicans fear a decision already has been made.

“In fact, the entire hearing process appears to be little more than a prelude to the rubber stamp coming out to approve the governor’s plan to borrow and tax billions without any significant review or analysis,” they said. “We owe it to New Jerseyans to do better.

“Given everything that’s at stake, the Senate Budget Committee must have the opportunity to conduct a full examination of Gov. Murphy’s revised budget proposal in an open, informed and transparent process.”

The four are requesting that Murphy’s office release a detailed budget plan immediately and in advance of Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio’s appearance before the Budget & Appropriations Committee next week.

“The Senate Budget Committee must have the opportunity to do its due diligence to ensure that more than $30 billion in New Jersey taxpayer funds is spent wisely next year and to hold the administration accountable for the $5 billion in federal coronavirus aid that was entrusted to its care,” they said.